Journal of the People’s Pastor

“Writing The History I’ve Lived, Living The History I Write!”

DARFUR DIARY

Part I: Darfur Diary – My Journey to Belgium




Simon Deng is a tall Black African from South Sudan. He has told his story of being kidnapped by Arabs and escaping to the world. He came to our church about 10 years ago and related horror stories not only of his personal ordeal but the situation in South Sudan. He told us that millions of Africans in South Sudan had been killed in a 23 year war by the Sudanese government of President Omar El Bashir. In addition, hundreds of thousands had starved to death. But he was still concerned about the crises in Darfur.

So it was that he informed me that he alone with others was planning the second freedom walk from Brussels Belgium to The Hague, Netherlands. The first freedom walk was from New York to Washington, DC. The objective was to highlight the crises in Darfur. By walking to The Hague, it is hoped that there would be a meeting with representatives of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to speed up the indictment of members of the Bashir government.

In the later part of November 2006, Deng invited me to join him and others in the second freedom walk. In a letter he wrote, “As you may have heard, plans are well underway for the second Sudan Freedom Walk, this time a European version from Brussels to The Hague (a bit over 100 miles, over 3 days). The walk began in 3 weeks, from Friday, December 8th to Monday, December 11th. If you will happen to be in Europe at that time, please join us! And if you have friends or family already in Europe, by all means, send this on them and help spread the word… We will be aiming our message at NATO, the EU and the ICC prosecutors, each in a position to do something about the situation in Sudan.

Perhaps, most importantly, we will be taking our message to the people of Europe who seem to genuinely care about the issue, but whose activists have been overshadowed by their counterpart in the USA. We are surprisingly well organized in the state, but there is very little Trans-Atlantic activist cooperation on this issue. The first Freedom Walk was perhaps most successful at bringing activists together, and setting us up to work well with each other in the future. This remains a key goal of the European Walk.”

There were three reasons I felt compelled to go:

Obviously to call attention to the crises in Darfur and hopefully to bring peace to the area.
To express the concern of people of African Ancestry in the USA.

To highlight our human rights “Sabbath On Sudan Weekend” to be held during the weekend of December 8th thru 11th in religious ceremonies and at the UN.

Swiss Air took off from JFK at 9:10pm, almost two hours beyond the scheduled time of departure. Leaving behind the lights of New York shinning through the night and awakening over the stupendous snowcap Alps Mountains was an exhilarating experience. On the one side, there was the spectacular display of the genius of the human mind and on the other side, the rugged grandeur of Mother Nature – both the handy work of the Supreme Creator.

Our first stop was Geneva, Switzerland. As we approached Geneva, three memorable experiences crossed my mind. The first was in the early 1970(s), I had spent 6 weeks in Africa studying the independent church movement. It had been a challenging experience intellectually, spiritually and culturally. I realized as never before, how long I had been away from home.

On the way back to the USA, I decided to stop in Geneva, Switzerland. I had always heard it was a city of beauty and where peace always abides even when everybody else was fighting. After all, there had to be a safe place where rich warring nations and or individuals could store their money. Later I learned, the description of Geneva, at least the part I saw, was indeed all that I was told, that is, the physical part. I don’t know about the money. They wouldn’t show me the vaults. After settling in the hotel, overlooking Geneva Lake, a bold idea invaded my mind. Rent a car, take the first highway out of town and drive toward the mountains. The next morning I implemented my idea. I started driving to, I know not where. Several hours driving thru small quaint towns, stretches of open space and winding highways going ever higher, I finally reached a small town named Chomanix. It sits at the base of Mont Blanc. (I learned later it is a world famous ski resort.) I decided to take the tramcar up the mountain side.

There are three stops or landings, each has a place for refreshments and gifts. I went as far as the second landing and lost my courage. The tramcar holds about 20 adults. It moves slowly up the mountain on a cable. As it moves occasionally it jerks. I guess that was due to being pulled over a hump in the cable. While you are riding up the mountainside, you are so close to the mountain you can almost touch it. The ice along the side seemed as though it had been there since God said, “Let there be…” The higher you go, the more perpendicular the car moves upward, until it seems you are going straight up the mountain. It was a frightening experience. I still shiver when I think about it. Never have I been so glad to return to the ground.

On my second visit was a week vacation. It was a gift to my wife and me from a couple named Johnson. (Wherever you are, we will always be grateful.) This generous couple observing our grinding schedules while trying to do some good and raise our kids, took pity on us. They gave us the money and kept the kids for us. The vacation entailed – 4 days in the Intercontinental Hotel and a weekend in a countryside villa in Geneva, Switzerland.

With my wife at my side, I was ready to tackle the heights of the mighty white mountain. Up the mountain we rode. We paused at the second landing and waited for the next tramcar. I needed time to summons my courage. When the second car arrived, we boarded and I held my breath and occasionally closed my eyes. I tried to put on a brave front, after all I couldn’t let my wife see how scared I was. Cracking and jerking up the mountain we went. I tried to keep from looking down. But I didn’t succeed. A couple of times, I turned my eyes downward. Everything below was nearly invisible. Again, I admit I was terrified. But I had to put on a brave front. I started talking. I don’t know what I was saying. I heard myself repeating words and tried to concentrate on the sound – meaning didn’t matter. Additional help was my wife’s beautiful face. Turning neither to the right nor the left looking neither up nor down, I gazed into her pretty eyes.

Finally, what appeared to be an eternity, (funny thing about time, when you are enjoying yourself time moves ever so swiftly, but in a stressful situation times seems to move at a snail’s pace), we arrived at the last stop. We stepped gingerly, trying to adjust to the ride and the height, into a waiting area. There was bar and a church. We reasoned that having completed this journey, you would be driven to one or the other.

We were startled to learn a few months later, a tramcar fell to the ground, killing and maiming all of the riders. It seemed, I’ve been cheating death or protected by God. A similar situation occurred in a flight I was on with Jesse Jackson, his staff, the media, secret service, and the crew. It was during the 1984 presidential campaign. We were headed for Dallas, Texas, for the presidential debate. The plane went through all kinds of dives, cracking and shaking. When we landed, Jesse Jackson kissed the ground. The smell of fumes was everywhere. The secret service grounded the plane. A few months later the same plane crashed, killing everyone on board.

My third trip to Geneva was sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC). WCC had embarked upon a three year studied entitled, “Salvation Today.” I was invited to the International Theological Institute in BoSay, Switzerland, about 50 miles from Geneva to study and meet other participants and to prepare for the Bangkok conference. It was an exciting, challenging experience. I had occasion to meet and interact with scholars, revolutionaries, theologians, philosophers, artists, diplomats and activists from all across the world. The conference concluded in Bangkok Thailand. It was there that I met Bishop Tutu and Buthelezi.

To be continued…

Upcoming Events

Attend the Timbuktu Learning Center’s weekly Thursday Night Community Forums. All Forums are held at the House of the Lord Church from 7pm to 9pm.

Join Operation Life Line if you need assistance or know someone who needs assistance with their mortgages as it relates to foreclosures, predatory lending and/or subprime lending.

Attend NRLAA’s monthly forum Focus on Africa the 2nd Saturday from 2pm to 4pm.
Organizing Meetings regarding Darfur every Thursday - 12noon @ the House of the Lord Church
Keep abreast of our Darfurian activities by checking our web page @ www.holnj.org.

Attend the Stop the Genocide in Darfur, Sudan Rally on Friday, April 4, 2008, assemble 12noon at the Sudan Mission located at , walk to the Isaiah Wall then over to the Chinese Embassy located at 350 E. 35th Street for a Rally from 1pm to 2pm.